Baltimore is recognized as a pioneer in open data, and it’s at the root of how Brandon Scott does his job.
“I don’t do anything without data,” the 2nd District City Councilman said at Baltimore Data Day.
Scott told a full University of Baltimore auditorium that an anti-violence group he is involved with called 300 Men March works in the Belair-Edison neighborhood because of crime data in the area. When he chooses which schools to focus on, he turns to reading data. Recently-released 911 call data offer a check of how many times some neighborhood leaders have actually called about a problem.
In a city with many competing interests and inequalities, Scott sees data as a great equalizer.
“Things aren’t fair right now, and the only way folks are going to be able to stand up for themselves and say, ‘Hey what about me?’ is to know, one, how much they’re not getting, and, two, what they possibly could get not just from city government but from other areas, and [how they could] work together to solve those problems,” Scott said.
Rebecca Lewis "We eliminated redlining by having data. Need eviction data to find system problems" #BaltimoreDataDay pic.twitter.com/4ulZfyq0G5
— BNIA-JFI (@bniajfi) July 22, 2016
It’s why Scott authored recent legislation cementing the city’s open data program. Jerome Mullen, who is the city’s Chief Information Officer, also pointed to progress. But he wants there to be more data available for Scott and other residents.
The city currently has 135 datasets available on OpenBaltimore, Mullen said, “which is pretty good, but I know we can do a lot better than that.”
Internally, Mullen pointed to issues with funding, getting up-to-date technology and convincing agencies to share data. Those are among the issues that will be addressed by Baltimore’s membership in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities program. But he also said there is a role for the community to play.
“The city is trying to develop ways to partner with our community to really move the needle when it comes to open data,” he said. The tech community, as well as neighborhood associations and educational institutions, can play a role, Mullen said.
One of the brightest local examples was on view just before, when Data Day organizer Seema Iyer presented actionable takeaways from the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance annual Vital Signs report. Data Day itself brought together that cross-section of tech, community and business leaders.
“In the very near future, I’m going to put a call out to our community to come together to try to develop what that framework would look like,” he said.
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